ABU DHABI: Sardar Azmoun struck twice as Iran sank Vietnam 2-0 to reach the last 16 of the Asian Cup and set a new group-stage win record.
Iran, looking to end a 43-year title drought since last winning Asian football’s most coveted prize, could have scored four or five but for some poor finishing in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s a pity our performance didn’t produce a couple more goals,” Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said. “But winning is the best medicine in football. To win two games and score seven goals — I have to praise my players because I am very demanding.”
Saman Ghoddos and Mehdi Taremi went close for Asia’s top-ranked team before Azmoun rose to head home a Ghoddos cross after 38 minutes.
The Rubin Kazan forward lashed in his third goal of the tournament from the edge of the box 20 minutes from time to give Iran a ninth successive first-round victory dating back to 2007.
Co-favourites with South Korea to lift the Asian Cup, Iran crushed war-torn Yemen 5-0 in their opening Group D game.
They were indebted to goalkeeper Alireza Safar Beiranvand for a courageous save from Nguyen Cong Phuong but were barely ruffled by the southeast Asian champions.
“We just need to relax more,” said Queiroz. “We were anxious going after the third goal, but that final touch will come. Now we must think, feel, eat, drink, do everything to be focused on Iraq.”